Cheers to beer! Blockbuster brewers' merger boosts UK dealmaking

Tue Dec 22, 2015 7:31am EST
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By Anjuli Davies and Pamela Barbaglia

LONDON (Reuters) - A run of big merger deals in Britain, led by the $100 billion SABMiller takeover, has given bankers cause to celebrate this year, despite the uncertainty over the country's future place in Europe.

After a barren few years, the value of M&A activity involving British target companies in 2015 has surged to a 15-year high of $415 billion from 2,396 deals last year, close to the annual economic output of Austria and up 136.5 percent on last year's figures, according to Thomson Reuters data.

Riding a global boom in dealmaking that has seen $4.6 trillion worth of deals done in 2015, a 41 percent increase from a year ago, M&A involving UK targets represented 9 percent of the total, almost double the 5.3 percent figure last year.

That tally is skewed by a handful of big deals that involved British-listed companies in 2015, including the tie-up between the world's two biggest brewers Anheuser-Busch Inbev and SABMiller which was announced in October.

That deal was the largest ever for a British company and the fourth-biggest takeover in history.

In addition Royal Dutch Shell announced a $70 billion takeover of gas producer BG Group, the biggest acquisition in the sector in a decade and among the top 10 most lucrative transactions for bankers on record.

"The difference you've really seen is in the number of $10 billion-plus deals," said Charles Jacobs, M&A partner at legal firm Linklaters in London.

"The UK has always benefited from having a lot of large international companies listed in London, whereas a lot of EU exchanges are home to more national champions. And from a legal and regulatory perspective the UK has always been a takeover friendly environment."   Continued...

The logo of Anheuser-Busch InBev is pictured outside the brewer's headquarters in Leuven, November 10, 2015.   REUTERS/Eric Vidal